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Date: 23 Nov 2010
Time: 20:04:07 -0600
Point taken, Dr. Dryburgh (and nice to see you venturing into blogging!). However, while Knoebel may strengthen the case for Minimalism in German art, I still see it as a surprisingly muted affair, given its impact elsewhere in the western world. This may be just a deficiency in my research, and that I need to give more prominence to figures like Winfred Gaul. And since Germany is a big place, doubtless there are, or were, other adherents that have since been forgotten. But none of them achieved anything like the international prominence of its Pop artists, Richter and Polke, either in the 60s or since. That much is clear. I concede the influence of Beuys was not necessarily a deterrent to the Minimally inclined, but this was passing speculation to my main point: that Minimalism did not have quite the same commitment in Germany as elsewhere. And secondly, because of this absence, abstraction for Richter looks slightly different from most post-Minimalism. But on this point too, I must concede flaws. Off-line, it has been pointed out to me, by an ardent Richter-phile, that his colour charts or grids, adequately address Minimalism, as do his mirrors and empty metal frames. And it’s true, there we see Richter squaring up (so to speak) to grids and rigorous ‘flatness’ of application, to modularity while still citing or sampling commercially printed colour swatches and toying with instance, even in the placement of mirrors or frames. Surely this is just as much a deft match of Pop and Minimalism as Polke’s printed fabrics or repeating patterns of figurative imagery? Well, yes and no. While it unquestionably gives Richter’s project a profound breadth (all the way from Minimalism to Pop, abstraction to figuration, pattern to print) it can’t quite dally in the middle ground, especially between decoration and depiction, in the way that then allows Polke to expand upon materials, into spontaneous alchemical formations, and essentially, drawing. It would take too long to unpack this remark any further. Let me just round off by admitting I was wrong in thinking Richter doesn’t get Minimalism – he can clearly and cleverly accommodate it – but he can’t really get at painting as more than a drag or blur, where abstraction is more than colour and pictures are less than photos. One final acknowledgment – I like very much your view of how Palermo or Knoebel’s use of found fabrics plays against Minimalist interests. I adopt something like it in my reply to Cold Fusion, here.